adult-blur-cameraman-1464205.jpg

January 25th marks the 35th day the federal government has been “shut down.” The reasons behind the shutdown and why it happened in the first place –The SAGA to MAGA.

This is the longest government shutdown in history, aside from the 1995 shutdown of 21 days.  The effects of a government shutdown are immediate, but as more and more time passes, the effects are more and more noticeable to all Americans, not just federal employees missing their paychecks.

As if putting any working American in a position of involuntary servitude is not bad enough (800,000 being effected) a slew of government agencies and programs have had to scale back employees or close up shop due to the shutdown.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has stopped most of its operations, affecting all forms of broadcasting. The Securities and Exchange Commission is currently running on a skeleton crew.  This affects the stock market, which is a major part of our economy.  Investigations into securities violations are being impeded due to short staffing, leaving the door open for predatory practices.

The Environmental Protection Agency, who is tasked with governing the air we breath, is only open to address major health threats and disasters.  The Department of Agriculture has had to close agencies across the country tasked with helping America’s farmers at the county level. America’s farmers are already feeling squeezed due to Chinese tariffs. There are many other government agencies that have had to scale back workers or close due to the shutdown.  Also, many museums and federally funded art galleries have had to close-including the Smithsonian.

Airports around the country have had to limit service due to TSA workers opting out of working for free. If the shutdown continues, Federal Courts may lose funding and will have to postpone adjudication of part of their caseload.  Immigration hearings have been cancelled in mass since the shutdown began-upwards of 42,000.

A government without funding, cannot continue to function. 38 million people are looking at losing food stamps if the shutdown continues into February. Many rental assistance programs expire in February-over 2 million low-income families will cease to get rental assistance for March and beyond. WIC, a federally funded food assistance program, is only funded through January-affecting as many as 7 million low-income pregnant women if the shutdown continues.

Until the federal government agrees on a budget, the situation will continue to worsen. Shutdowns often cost the government heavily-not just in closing agencies and services. The 16 day shutdown of 2013 cost the federal government over $2 billion in lowered gross domestic product (GDP) and less productivity. Not to mention, lowered confidence by Americans in the federal government is often a direct result of shutdowns- less spending and investments.

The shutdown would have to continue to September to have more severe effects, as many government agencies are funded until then, but let’s hope Congress can agree before it gets even close to that benchmark.

Coming through on an outrageous campaign promise seems way more important to MAGA followers than millions’ ability to eat and have a place to sleep. President Trump has promised to make sure we all get our tax refunds even without a funded government- so there’s that. Too bad the IRS isn’t going to be staffed well enough to be able to field consumer questions or issues.

health_overhaul.jpg_y9g3at7_t1170

Photo By Jonathan Lemire

Associate Press- published in the The Spokesman-Review

Massachusetts Senator, Elizabeth Warren, announced her intent to run in the Presidential Election of 2020 on January 31st. Warren is among many Democrats, including Bernie Sanders and former Vice President Joe Biden, vying for the Democratic nomination to run and potentially boot Donald Trump out of office in 2020.

Warren is a former law school professor and the brainchild behind the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. She has also championed legislation to help loosen the corporate grip on America- a grip that is slowly deteriorating the middle class, increasing poverty.  Her work and policies as Senator have grown her popularity with Democrats, but ill-favor with Republicans.

There are concerns Warren is too divisive to be a successful candidate for 2020. She believes America should be sending more on government infrastructure, where the current administration believes spending should be cut. We currently spend less on infrastructure than any of our world counterparts. Increased spending would create more jobs, but create potential tax hikes. She has been in strong opposition to current administration policies.

Warren advocates returning to the Bush era taxes for the wealthiest of Americans. She also proposes reform of The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)-forcing fair labor practices and reform of production practices that hurt the environment. She also is in heavy opposition to the current administration’s policies on Immigration, especially with our neighbor to the south, Mexico. No Wall under a Warren Presidency.

Elizabeth is an advocate for a single-payer health care system.  The Affordable Care Act is simply not sufficient to address the continuously growing problem of affordable healthcare. Large insurance companies have been in control for far too long- creating the problem.

The Senator is in support of federal Marijuana legalization for medical and recreational purposes. She is also an advocate for access to abortions and supports passing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA).  The ENDA proposes anti-discrimination measures for homosexuals. She has also called our criminal justice system racist and prejudicial that needs serious reform.

Whether Warren is too divisive to run or not, she is a champion against big business and large corporations having a strong hold on America. She has a deep concern for the consumer and will call our criminal justice system what it is-an unfair and racist system.  She will push for the spending and measures needed to make an America where everyone can thrive-not just the wealthy.

There are over fifty candidates seeking the Democratic nomination for the 2020 election. Elizabeth Warren is a very experienced and progressive politician. She would be an excellent candidate for the first female leader of America.

 

lead_720_405.jpg

Photo Evan Vucci/ AP posted from The Atlantic

Recently, Congress submitted their Continuing Resolution Bill- essential for funding various departments of the Federal Government. President Trump refused to sign the bill until Congress includes funding for his Border Wall. This refusal has resulted in a partial government shutdown.

The government shutdown will have immediate consequences for many government employees. American workers whom our tax dollars fund for services “non-essential” may not be receiving their paychecks. The shutdown won’t stop there. There is a potential for far more reaching consequences for failing to pass the Continuing Resolution Bill, including hampering domestic and foreign economic relations, lack of funding for many federally funded programs, among other issues.

Historically, most Presidential administrations have experienced partial government shutdowns, including in January 2018. The government also shut down in 2013 when the Senate attempted to utilize the bill as leverage to delay President Obamaʼs Affordable Care Act. The last ditch-effort came after several failed congressional attempts to appeal the legislation.

What is the government arguing about now? Well not really much since Congress is in recess until after the holidays, but mostly the ever-evolving Immigration & Border Security debate. In the last 20 years, people seeking Asylum from Mexican and Central American Countries has grown exponentially, due to instability and rampant corruption in their home countries. Immigrants flood our borders seeking Asylum.

It’s proven to be a daunting process in which Asylum seekers must apply for a hearing to go before an immigration judge who will determine if they qualify under U.S. Policy. The backlog of applications is endless and with few judges, Asylum seekers are housed in detention facilities while they wait their day in court. American tax dollars must fund these detention facilities. These facilities are over-run, understaffed, and overcrowded. In the past few weeks, U.S. border patrol has faced increased public criticism for the deaths of two children in their custody in one of these such facilities.

While President Trump is certainly not the first President to refuse
to sign a funding bill, he’s dug himself into a hole by holding out until Congress approves  appropriation money for his Border Wall.

How is this any different than the previous shutdown under Obama in 2013? The major difference is that Congress voted to pass legislation for President Obamaʼs affordable healthcare act. Our current Congress, currently in Republican majority, has never been able to pass legislation to fund a border wall.

Though promises to follow-through on campaign promises are reasonable expectations for supporters, not all are realistic enough to get majority Congressional support. Several Republicans refuse to publicly endorse the Presidents refusal to sign the bill due to lack of border wall funding. Many are holding out to see how Trumpʼs strategy plays out before making any official public statements of their endorsement.

President Trump knows if he hasn’t been able to find a way to fund the Wall through the congressional majority he currently has, it certainly won’t pass with a freshly elected Democratic lead House. This is quite a gamble for the president and his bid for re-election in 2020. The party that shuts the government down, historically has been penalized by bad publicity- ultimately influencing Congressional incumbents’ elections, especially in swing states and swing districts.

The president has to show he’s dug his heels in for his supporters. However, it is uncertain whether or not his strategy will work.  Government shut-downs have had little to no long standing success in the past. The coming days will be telling of his willingness to compromise. In the meantime, thousands of government workers will continue their jobs without certainty of when they will be compensated.

The SAGA to MAGA continues…

main_1200.jpg

Portrait of a Native American “Big Head” Library of Congress/Edward S. Curtis

Back in 1999, Patrick Murphy was charged and convicted of the brutal murder and mutilation of his girlfriend’s ex-partner in McIntosh County, Oklahoma.  Murphy, as well as his victim, were members of the Muscogee Creek Nation. The murder took place on the Creek Nation Reservation.  Murphy confessed to the crime and was subsequently convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to death by McIntosh County.

Not unusual to death row cases, Murphy exhausted his appeals, stays, and continuances-landing his case before the Tenth Circuit Federal Court.  Murphy’s plea to the Tenth Circuit was a final plea for his life. His argument being one of tribal sovereignty and a question or jurisdiction. Who had proper jurisdiction over Murphy and his crime?  Murphy’s lawyer argued that McIntosh County lacked jurisdiction to try and convict Murphy as his crime was committed on Native American land. Only the Federal Government could try and convict him, not local authorities, under Federal law.  Murphy would also be immune from the death penalty as a Native American.

merlin_141808212_3721b906-c129-4d56-bc82-1f8af8e774ce-jumbo

Photo of Patrick Murphy Associated Press

The Creek Nation was formed in 1866 encompassing 3 million acres and 1.8 million citizens, including most of the city of Tulsa- Oklahoma’s second largest city. Oklahoma became a state in 1907.  Even with achieving statehood in 1907, the reservation was never formally dismantled. Essentially, the state instituted its own laws and taxation completely irreverent of the Creek Nation. The state has operated in this area without challenge for the last century.

Over the summer, a panel of three judges for the Tenth Circuit found in favor of tribal sovereignty.  The court ruled that since the Creek Nation was never formally dismantled by Federal Courts or Federal Law, McIntosh County had no jurisdiction over Murphy. Murphy’s case was reversed and remanded for a new trial in Federal court. The basis of their ruling was that the Creek Nation still held the land and legal authority over it, not the state of Oklahoma. The case went before the U.S. Supreme Court this past Tuesday for oral argument.  The Supreme Court’s ruling is pending finite resolution. The Supreme Court will issue an opinion in the coming months.

The Tenth Circuit’s ruling, if upheld, has far more reaching consequences than asylum for Murphy, but affects taxation, criminal justice, ordinances, traffic laws, and how the state government has functioned in this area. Oklahoma law in essence does not apply. This ruling also takes many violent criminal convictions and overturns them, drastically reduces penalty, and sentencing for thousands of incarcerated individuals. Since the ruling, many have appealed their criminal convictions on jurisdictional grounds. The ruling also essentially made half of Oklahoma an Indian Reservation. The state of Oklahoma is scrambling-begging review of America’s highest court to overturn the Tenth Circuit.

autumn-clouds-countryside-36024.jpg

The Lawyer for the state of Oklahoma, Lisa Blatt, stated in oral argument that, “Every piece of paper, record, book, dollar bill or coin or property, their buildings, their furniture, their desks — everything was taken away from the tribes…” The state of Oklahoma essentially took control without any formal legal action.   In their arrogance, was there a failure to codify and preserve this seizure? Was the intimidation and oppression of an entire class of people enough to maintain this control for over a century?

If upheld, the ruling is a long time reckoning  of  humble quiet victory for a people forced out of their heritage and way of life.  Will America finally atone and penance for hundreds of years of oppression and genocide? This ruling  demonstrates a new look and understanding of Native American tribal land with many implications-not all so grand.  However, it is opening the door for discussion on tribal land and who has proper jurisdiction over it in a way never approached before. The state of Oklahoma is fearful to lose control they have maintained for over a century.  The threat and fear of the state may be misstated and grossly exaggerated. Tribal leaders already work with local authorities in this area and plan no disruption.  If only the Andrew Jacksons and Settlers of early American found it within them to be so cooperative.

20181110_185514.jpg

The 2018 Midterm Election results were promising for America no matter what side of the aisle you stand. The election made history with high voter turn-out. Members of the LGBT community took office, as well as women and representatives of varying ethnic and religious backgrounds took office for the first time. With Democrats taking control of the House of Representatives, there is hope that needed legislation could be brought to the forefront that otherwise may not be addressed under current administration. There is much ground we still need to cover, but there is hope.

America made history in the 2018 Mid-Terms:

  • 113 million Americans voted, equating to 48% of the eligible voting population casting their ballot November 6th. America has not seen such high turn-out at the Midterms in nearly 50 years.
  • Colorado elected the first openly gay man as governor. Oregon re-elected an openly bisexual woman as governor who was originally elected in 2016.
  • Kansas elected the first Native American woman to congress who is also Kansas’ first openly gay representative. New Mexico also elected their first Native American woman to congress.
  • Tennessee elected their first female senator to office by a close margin.
  • Texas elected two Hispanic congresswomen for the first time.
  • North Dakota elected their first female governor.
  • Maine elected their first female governor.
  • Guam elected their first female governor
  • Connecticut for the first time elected an African American woman to Congress.
  • Massachusetts also elected an African American woman to Congress for the first time.
  • Iowa elected their first female representatives to the House of Representatives.
  • Michigan elected the first Muslim woman to Congress along with Minnesota electing a Muslim Palestinian-American congresswoman.
  • New York elected the youngest congresswoman ever at 29 years old.

Nearly a century ago, woman did not have the right to vote, let alone take political office. With many women taking the highest office in their states, it is a clear sign America is evolving and appreciating women equally as their male counterparts.  Not only was the gender barrier broken in many states, but religious, sexual orientation and barriers in ethnic were broken as well.

A Democrat controlled house essentially ushers in a more equal system. It is also promising in regards to healthcare and wages.

The Affordable Care Act is flatly insufficient.  Many Americans still go without health insurance  and basic care. Citizens utilizing The Affordable Care Act also do not have access to vision or dental coverage.  President Trump has also allowed states to make exceptions for what is provided under the federal Affordable Care Act legislation. Prescription drugs are also prohibitively expensive for many that need them the most. The freshly elected plan on pushing aggressive legislation to help curb the cost of pharmaceuticals. Also, with a Democrat controlled house, there is hope for legislation to open the door for vision and dental coverage to Obamacare subscribers as well as expanding coverage as a whole.

The current federal minimum wage is $7.25/hour, which is approximately $15,000 a year. For the vast majority of Americans, this is not enough to make a living necessitating many to work multiple jobs. Democrats have promised to raise the minimum wage- proposing an increase to $15/hr.  Democrats also want to propose paid leave for families for medical reasons.  America is currently the only major world power that does not offer such paid leave.

The Midterm Election results demonstrate a move for progressive change. The diversity that makes up the U.S. is more represented and recognized. Also, there is opportunity for growth in the areas of healthcare and wage earnings for citizens.  Let us hope the promise for change of this win comes through.

blur-cannabis-close-up-606506.jpg

As of October 17, 2018 recreational marijuana became legal in all of Canada.  The Canadian legislature passed the Cannabis Act, as an effort by Justin Trudeau, to keep marijuana out of the hands of Canadian youth.  Citizens 19 years old, 18 in two provinces, can legally buy marijuana from federally licensed producers and retailers.  Plans to pardon criminal convictions for possession of 30 grams or less of marijuana are underway.

Why is it significant our neighbors to the north have legalized the devil’s lettuce? Canada is the second nation in the world to legalize recreational marijuana on a federal level. Canada is the first major world economy to legalize recreational use.  This move makes Canada the world’s largest legal marijuana marketplace. It is expected to bring Canada $4 billion in revenue.

canada-close-up-fashion-1151067.jpg

This step by the Canadian legislature is a glimmer of hope for federal legalization in the U.S. Nine states in the U.S. and the District of Columbia have already passed recreational marijuana legislation.  To date, 30 states permit medical use of marijuana in some varying degree. With the current status of marijuana in the U.S., legal marijuana sales brought in $9 billion in revenue in 2017.

cap-close-up-crowd-858484.jpg

This is a promising sign that the U.S. is not far behind. Per a Gallop poll conducted in October 2017, 64% of those polled supported legalization of recreational use of marijuana.  Both sides of the aisle are trending towards legalization. With revenue from marijuana continuing to grow, and the world stage opening its doors for recreational use, it is only a matter of time we step up to the plate.

As hammered home many times in our blog, please cast your vote in the upcoming Mid-term elections.  Legal marijuana sales can bring revenue to our nation, healing and pain relief for many, and exoneration of charges related to possession, production, and sale of marijuana.

 

 

kanye-west-maga-white-house-2018-billboard-1548

Photo by Evan Vucci

originally published: https://www.billboard.com/articles/columns/hip-hop/8479571/kanye-west-white-house-donald-trump-quotes

On October 11, 2018 the famed rapper and producer, Kayne West, made a visit to the Oval Office. This episode is one of many demonstrating his support for Donald Trump.  The visit has been widely publicized and left many scratching their heads at Kayne’s seemingly undying support of the 45th president.  The rapper delivered a disjointed soliloquy to the Oval Office and White House Press Pool last Wednesday.  The 10 minute speech has elicited much criticism, however, the rapper did mention key issues for America that demand reform; ranging from police brutality, prison reform and mental health.

West discussed the constitutionally upheld “Stop and Frisk” practice in effect across the country among law enforcement. “Stop and Frisk” allows law enforcement to detain individuals based on reasonable suspicion of criminal activity. The practice is somewhat problematic and can give police far branching authority in detaining citizens and in conducting personal searches. Often, minority populations feel the brunt of this practice when used with overreaching authority and brutality. The practice is a part of general distrust for police officers among Americans.

Last Wednesday’s speech also touched on the problematic 13th amendment to the Constitution-abolishing slavery- albeit preserving it in the form of incarceration. In 2013 over 2.3 million adults were incarcerated across America. With the influx of corporate prisons, this population continues to rise and allows for corruption with the ability for profit.

Kayne also discussed mental health issues and creating jobs. Under the Reagan administration government funded mental health institutions were dismantled. This move has lead to growing homelessness and crime across America. West also mentioned expanding  employment opportunities, specifically in the city of Chicago.

Ignoring the content of Kayne’s speech, what seems to be most appalling is his support for a politician that garners support from white supremacists and the religious right. Political ideologies aligned with these groups often profess bigoted and hateful rhetoric. Kayne has also made statements on race and slavery that are enough to rise eyebrows and question his motive to align himself with the president.

One argument for West’s support of Trump could be about financial motive over true political support. President Trump is one of the wealthiest individuals in America and is supported by a voter base that favors tax breaks for the rich. The wealthiest often benefit the most from fiscally conservative economic policies. Kayne is an A-List celebrity worth $160 Million. The Elite marry the Elite.

However,  the character of the soliloquy seems to be an almost laughable placation to Trump’s insatiable ego and attention seeking addiction. It contains unapologetic praise of Trump and a belief in him to “Make America Great Again.” It speaks a language Trump understands- where he is the center of the universe and ruler of the free world. Kayne even finished his speech with a big hug for ole sir Cheeto.

161213102630-02-kanye-west-trump-tower-1213-super-169.jpg

Photo Cred: https://www.cnn.com/videos/entertainment/2016/12/13/kanye-west-trump-tower-nr.cnn

Kayne’s support of Trump honestly seems unbelievable. Although Kayne purported to not have voted for Hilary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election, Kayne donated thousands to Hilary Clinton’s presidential campaign.  Many of the topics he discussed in his speech were issues that don’t plague most of the voter base of the Republican Party. There seems to be conflict in ideology here.

Given the character of his speech and prior support of Clinton, it begs the question-Is Kayne’s support of Trump really genuine? Is his alignment with Trump some kind of political genius to effectuate change on issues that are impacting millions of Americans? Is he using his position of wealth and status to open discussion on these issues? We can only hope so. Only Kayne really knows….

As reported by NBC, here are some of Kayne’s most choice phrases during his visit.

  • On voting for Trump: “My dad and my mom separated so there was not a lot of male energy in my home and also I’m married to a family where, you know, there’s not a lot of male energy. It’s beautiful though.”
  • On Trump’s support from African-Americans: “Blacks really get caught up in the idea of racism over the idea of industry.”
  • On racism: “Racism can’t control me.”
  • On his mental health: “I wasn’t bipolar, I had sleep deprivation that could cause dementia.”
  • On his speech: “You are tasting a fine wine that has multiple notes to it.”
  • On Trump wanting to implement stop-and-frisk in Chicago: “Well, I feel stop-and-frisk does not help the relationship with people in the city.”
  • On bringing jobs and tax breaks to Chicago: “We’re going to need to get a few breaks to be able to have some places in my hometown of Chicago … where we can create some factories. I think it would be cool for them be Trump factories because he’s a master of industry, he’s a master builder. I think it would be cool to have Yeezy ideation centers.”
  • When asked about Chicago’s gun violence: “The problem is the legal guns. Legal guns is [sic] the problem.”
  • When asked about a possible presidential run: “Let’s stop worrying about the future, all we really have is today.”
  • On Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan: “Another thing is black people have a problem with the word again … because time is a myth.”
  • On being in the Oval Office: “Oh, it is good energy in this.”

No matter what side of the aisle you stand or whether you like Kayne West, some of the ideas mentioned in his speech Wednesday need to be brought to the table.  Even if it is confusing and baffling, the implication could open doors for positive change.